Thursday, December 22, 2016

Breathe Analyzer

Horror/thriller movies often have short runs in the movie theater, winding up on video a short while later. That's how, even though it premiered less than four months ago, I was recently able to catch up on Don't Breathe at home.

Don't Breathe has a gimmicky premise. Three teens, on a series of burglaries, target a man they believe is keeping a large amount of cash in his home. He seems like an easy mark, too: he's a blind man living in the only occupied house on a rundown street. But when the teens break into his home, they're quickly in far deeper than they expected. Their "victim" is also a trained soldier harboring a dark secret. He locks the teens inside his house, and the would-be predators quickly become the prey.

The setup of this film is pretty fun, and is almost Hitchcockian. Not that I'm out to overpraise this movie too much, but Hitchcock's main characters were often of grey morality, and his plots unfolded as a consequence of one ignoble decision. Don't Breathe pits home-invading robbers against a psychopath. No one's a hero to be truly rooted for here, and The Blind Man (that's literally how the movie credits him) is made increasingly despicable as part of making you forgive the teens.

There's a pretty good amount of suspense in the first half of the film. You get a lot of clever setups from the "he can't see them" premise, and plausible counterplay that makes The Blind Man dangerous all the same. But the longer the movie goes (and at just 88 minutes, it's not like it's very long), the crazier measures it has to go to to keep the story going. When The Blind Man's big secret is revealed, it seems a bit silly (and certainly lacking the methodical thinking he's demonstrated to that point). Things generally start to slide downhill from there.

Part of the problem is that the movie gives away the ending it's building to. The opening scene is an eye-popping exterior shot that gradually zooms in to reveal a grisly visual. We then jump back to follow the story that leads to that moment. And while technically there is 5 or 10 minutes of movie left beyond this previewed moment, the opening shows enough that you can make big assumptions about the bulk of the story. I mean, it is a great opening shot, but it's ultimately so memorable that you never stop thinking about it as the movie unfolds. Ultimately, I think it does more harm than good.

The pros and cons here probably weigh out favorably, but only by a bit. I'd give Don't Breathe a B- overall. This is another one of those movies that's probably good to catch if you love the genre, but should definitely be skipped if horror is not your thing.

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